State of the Hogs: Taccolini's Stretch Modifications

Dominic Taccolini shortened his stride from the stretch to set up a 10-inning shutout victory over Kentucky.

Dominic Taccolini has had some nice stretches of pitching this season. It's just when he gets to the stretch, things seem to get complicated.

So before Taccolini went to Kentucky last week, the Arkansas righthander modeled some things that he noticed the previous weekend while watching Florida ace Logan Shore, most notably with runners on base.

"I shortened up out of the stretch," Taccolini said. "I know Logan Shore pretty good and I thought he looked real comfortable in the stretch. I tried to be on time to the plate."

Taccolini was on time for everything in a 10-inning, five-hit shutout Friday night. He limited Kentucky to just five hits, did not walk a batter and got the 1-0 victory when Chad Spanberger delivered a leadoff homer in the top of the 10th.

Taccolini threw 125 pitches and was ahead with first-pitch strikes all night. He did not walk a single batter.

"I was able to focus out of the stretch," he said. "That's been my problem, not making the adjustment out of the stretch."

Catcher Tucker Pennell said the difference with Taccolini was the curve ball.

"He was locating his curve ball," Pennell said. "We knew he was capable of that. But throwing his curve for a strike with location was what he did.

"When he stays calm and trusts his stuff, he can do that."

Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said it was also a matter of "not over throwing." He said it may not have been a coincidence that there was no radar gun at Hagan Field at Lexington.

"Dominic didn't try to throw too hard," Van Horn said. "He just let it sink and wasn't throwing too hard. He pitched.

"He was just taking his time and not over throwing. He hit spots. Hopefully, he can take some of that to the Texas A&M game."

The adjustments pitching out of the stretch were clear.

"Yes, he shortened his stride," Van Horn said. "I think that helped him not over throw. It's about making adjustments. We watched a lot of video of last year, why it was working then and not now. He was over striding and his arm couldn't catch up.

"What we saw in this game, he was around the zone and had sink in his pitches. He was pitching."

Taccolini said his diving fast ball was also in the zone, making it hard on the righthanders. He was pitching on the inner half, something pitching coach Dave Jorn has emphasized.

"I found that pitch and it was awesome," Taccolini said. "I was going inside and getting ground balls. The last inning, that was pitches inside on two righthanders for ground balls."

What was the feeling at the end?

"Extreme excitement," he said. "It was such a long game and a grind. We hadn't won in so long, It was excitement and relieve all wrapped up in one."

Taccolini's impressive performance was followed by Zach Jackson's 2-0 complete game on Saturday in the first half of a doubleheader, a seven-inning game.

"Zach told me that he ought to be able to do it in seven if I did in in 10," he said. "There was some joking about that. You know, he has a hard time with pitch count sometimes and he thought a shortened game would be a big help. He tried to out shoot me."

The Hogs had a 4-3 lead in the second game of the doubleheader, but relievers Doug Willey and Josh Alberius couldn't finish it off. Kentucky go the last game of the series with a 5-4 walk-off victory.

"It was a great week," Pennell said. "We started out with a victory over Creighton, then got two of three. Looking back, you'd like the sweep, but the goal is to win the series."

Taccolini didn't try to downplay the huge nature of the victory on Friday night in the opener of the Kentucky series. The Hogs had lost eight straight SEC games and had not held a lead in any of them.

"It was good," he said. "It's nice to get a victory. It had been awhile."

Van Horn said the team had fought hard in the bad stretch, but didn't get enough pitching and there had been few breaks. He also sensed that there were no club house issues with hitters pointing fingers at lack of pitching, the obvious issue.

"We had not seen any signs of that," he said. "No comments. We watch for that, but it didn't happen. Our guys just kept fighting."

Van Horn said there was obvious pressure because of the losing streak and the streak of 14 straight NCAA tournament bids.

"We talked about (the pressure)," he said. "They know it. We just told them to try for a win that day, that's all. But they know the window is closing."

Van Horn said Jackson's outing was also encouraging.

"He was a little calmer," Van Horn said. "He was not over throwing. There were a few times he did and left it up and away, but better. He had a 3-0 and came back to get him with a strikeout there late."

Van Horn thought Taccolini's outing helped Jackson.

"No doubt," Van Horn said. "It's like if he can do it, I have to do it. (Keaton) McKinney had a lot of pressure in that third game and it didn't work out."

McKinney might be out of the rotation this weekend against Texas A&M. Isaiah Campbell will start Tuesday night against Oklahoma State with the potential to start again on Sunday.

"We won't go long with Campbell so that he might can come back and maybe start on the weekend," Van Horn said.

Game time for Tuesday night is set for 5 p.m. at Baum Stadium. The game was moved up because of the potential for bad weather on Tuesday night.

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